Sunday mornings are sacred to me. I grab a copy of the New York Times, tune in to CBS Sunday Morning, followed by NBC's Meet The Press, then ABC's As You Like It with Gil Noble. Last Sunday's Meet The Press, while commendable for its all-female roundtable of panelists, earned demerit points for its glaring absence of women of color.
Tim Russert's guests last Sunday included biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin, editor Katie O'Bierne, journalist Judy Woodruff and author Sally Bedell Smith. The panelists addressed trends in the political landscape and Sally Bedell Smith did a pitch for her book, For Love of Politics: Bill and Hillary Clinton: The White House Years. Inevitably, the discussion shifted to the presidential campaign and the manner in which Sen. Clinton's candidacy has forced male candidates to address women's issues. At the end of the program, host Russert pointed to the all-female panel noting, at the same time, that this was not a first occurrence.
Sunday morning talk shows have traditionally been a predominantly male (read, white male) domain - whether for guests or hosts. But that trend has been shifting over the past several years as panels have grown to include more women opinion makers, experts and journalists.
NBC's Meet The Press occupies a unique position in the hierarchy of Sunday morning talk shows. According to NYT columnist David Carr, "Mr. Russert's Sunday morning eminence is unchallenged, in part because of his ability to convey regular-guy gravitas and eyebrow-borne skepticism while demonstrating a mastery of political matters". Commentators and political candidates alike, cognizant of the visibility and audience reach provided by these programs, covet a spot on the Sunday morning talk show circuit.
Thus, while the jubilation over last Sunday's all-female panel on Meet The Press is understandable, this is but a partial victory. Just as it is argued that women bring a different perspective to the political dialogue previously dominated by men, women of color likewise bring unique viewpoints.
There are plausible explanations that can account for the absence of women of color on last Sunday's Meet The Press, given that previous broadcasts have featured guests such as Gwen Ifill, senior correspondent for The News Hour with Jim Lehrer. Maybe invitations were extended to women of color but scheduling conflicts prevented them from attending. Maybe invitations were extended but none were accepted. Whatever the reasons, and in anticipation of Mr. Russert's upcoming panels, I am drawing up a short list of women of color who will make ideal panelists for Meet The Press. I am also accepting referrals, so feel free to submit nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org along with bio/resumes of the nominees. Be sure to include "MTP/Women of Color" in the subject line. I will forward the list, once it is complete, to Mr. Russert.
Meet The Press, meet women of color!